Tianmen Mountain - 18 Things and Tips You Need to Know
Tianmen Mountain is hailed as one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. Different from Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Tianmen Mountain National Park will impress you with towering mountains and thrilling experiences from the world's longest cableway to the cliff-side glass walkway.
Here are the top 18 things about Tianmen Mountain you should know before visiting.
1. Tianmen Mountain Cable Car - the World's Longest
Tianmen Mountain Cable Car is the longest passenger cableway of high mountains in the world, measuring 7455 km (24,459 ft). The journey takes about 30 minutes.
The cableway starts from the downtown of Zhangjiajie City and travels to the top of Tianmen Mountain. It passes over the urban area and farmland, and then begin its ascent up to a plateau 1500 m above.
In clear day, you can have a great view of Heaven's Door and the spectacular mountains. In the foggy day, the views are breathtaking as you go above the clouds that surround you.
TravelSR tip: The queue for the cable car is often long. It is not unusual to wait for 2-3 hours during peak season. You're highly recommended to arrive before 8 am. If you arrive earlier before hotel check-in time, you can get to Tianmen Shan from the airport or train station directly and deposit your baggage at the entrance of Tianmen Mountain.
2. 3 Terrifying 4,700ft Glass Skywalks
Once at the top of the mountain there is an extensive trail around the summit with dramatic paths hanging on the vertical cliff's - some hundred meters even with the glass bottom.
There are three cliff-hanging glass skywalks with a height of 4,700 feet, named 'the Walk of Faith' and 'Coiled Dragon Cliff'. You can choose one of them to check whether you are brave or not.
Stand on the crystal clear walkway, you can enjoy the cool fresh air and breathtaking view of the great high mountains.
The glass skywalk is different from the Glass Bridge in Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, which spans two cliffs over a huge valley. The canyon is about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Tianmen Mountain National Forest Park.
TravelSR tips: The glass skywalks need an extra charge, about 1 USD. Get ready for the queue in peak season. On foggy days, you might see nothing below as the mist below lessens the effect.
3. Tianmen Cave, aka "Heaven's Gate"
Tianmen Cave is a natural, water-eroded cave with a height of 131.5 m (431.4 ft), a width of 57 m (187 ft) and a depth of 60 m (196.8 ft). It is the highest elevated cave of its kind in the world.
There are 999 steps leading from the foothill to the hole, signifying the stairway to Heaven, thus the name Heaven's Gate (that's what Tianmen means). The number 9 equates to longevity. in Chinese culture.
Throughout the ages, Tianmen Cave has been a spiritual place to pray for blessings.
Tianmen Mountain is praised to be the heaven for the adventurers. A lot of great adventures were held here: in 1999, the airplane crossed through the cave; in 2006, the French spiderman climbed up the cave; the world bicycle race and the wingsuit flying competition are held here every year.
4. The World's Longest Escalator Through Mountain
If you can't handle the climb of 999 steps to the Tianmen Cave, you can take the world's longest escalator up there.
There are 12 sections of escalator running through the mountain and reaching the top of the mountain from the bottom of the Tianmnen Cave. The total length of the escalator is 897 meters, and the lifting height is 340 meters.
5. Thrilling Tianmen Mountain Road with 99 Bends
The winding mountain road leading to Tianmen Cave is called 99 Bends Road (通天大道,"Heaven-linking Avenue"). The road is about 10 km, with 99 bends. It is considered one of the most winding roads in China.
The shuttle bus riding up the long and winding road is thrilling itself. The best view of it is from the Tianmen Cable Car or the platform below the Tianmen Cave.
TravelSR tip: If you are easily carsick, skip the shuttle bus and take the Cable car both ways.
6. Tianmenshan Temple
If you are interested in Buddhism, you can visit Tianmenshan Temple (or called Tianmen Temple). The temple, built in the Ming Dynasty, is the Buddhist center of western Hunan province.
The temple is located at the top of the mountain with beautiful greenery surroundings.
TravelSR tip: There is a small lift you can take from Tianmen Temple to the top of Yunmeng Pagoda, the ticket of this lift is not included in the mountain ticket, you have to pay 25RMB/PAX, about 10 minutes riding.
7. The Best Time to Visit Tianmen Mountain: September to November
The best time to go to Tianmen Mountain is from September and November which offer the most pleasant temperatures and drier days.
The winter season from December to February is also a good time when you would get into an ice world. This season has chilly, dry weather and the lowest crowds.
March, April, May, and June are very wet months when the mountain is covered with mist and the visibility is low.
July and August are peak season and busy with Chinese tourists due to school vacations.
If possible, try to avoid the following periods when the park is particularly crowded:
- National Day Holiday (October 1–7)
- Labor Day Holiday (May 1–3)
TravelSR tip: Try to avoid foggy and rainy days. When it rains, the whole mountain will be covered in fog and you may see nothing. If you can't change your plan, do try to go earlier so that you have sufficient time to stay at certain points to wait for the fog to clear.
8. Two Touring Routes: West and East
The Tianmen Mountain National Park is very huge. On the top of the Mountain, there are two directions you can take either East or West. It is all one circle and you will join the other end eventually.
The attractions along the two routes are similar. But the west route is more popular for the famous glass skywalk. Many people don't know that there is also a less known glass skywalk on the east route.
If you want to avoid crowds, you can start with the east route.
If you don't want to hike too much, you can make the most of the transport in the park. You can go in this way:
- Cable car up to the top of the mountain.
- Walk around the cliff-hanging walkways.
- Take a chairlift to the summit.
- Take an elevator the Tianmen Cave.
- Take the bus down the mountain.
9. Two Lines for up and down the mountain
Apart from the travelling routes, there are three lines for up and down the mountain you need to choose:
- A Line has you ride the cable car up and drive back down the 99 curves road.
- B Line has you bus up the 99 curves road, and then ride the cable car down.
- C Line has you bus up and down.
TravelSR tip: Travelling along the A Line is easier being mostly downhill. But if you find that the waiting time is too long to the cable car, you will probably find a faster visit by using B Line.
10. Tianmen Fox Fairy: An Outdoor Night Show
Tianmen Fox Fairy is an outdoor show telling an old Chinese love story. The stage was built in the canyon, with the Tianmen Mountain as the backdrop. The performance lasts for 100 minutes and plays from 8 pm to 9:40 pm every evening.
If you are planning to visit Tianmen Mountian in Zhangjiajie, the following 8 tips will make your trip much more enjoyable.
11. Getting to Tianmen Mountain
Tianmen Mountain National Park is located 8 km south of Zhangjiajie City. It is not in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park of Wulingyuan Scenic Area, which is about 40 minutes away.
It is about 10 minutes from Zhangjiajie airport by taxi, and 3 minutes from Zhangjiajie Railway Station by taxi or 10 minutes by foot.
There are direct flights to Zhangjiajie City from the major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an. You can take a train if traveling from Guilin or Yichang.
12. The Entrance Tickets
- March–November: 258 yuan (42 USD) for adults;
- December–February: 225 yuan (37 USD) for adults;
- Children under 1.2 meters free of charge, children 1.2–1.5 meters half price;
- Students with student ID 158 yuan (26 USD);
- Seniors (60+) 158 yuan.
13. With A Guide or Not
You'd better have a guide if you do not have a good sense of direction as the English signs are limited. A local guide can lead you to the best positions for photographing and share some stories about the mountain.
Bring a map if you travel independently.
14. Time Needed
Excluding the time for standing in the queue, it usually takes about 4 hours in the park. If you want to explore as much as possible, you can stay there for a whole day.
15. Things to Bring
- Passport is required to buy the ticket.
- Bring your own food. There is no restaurant on the Tianmen Mountain, and the snacks are very expensive, even the sausage will cost you 20RMB, but the price is only 5 RMB in the downtown.
- You'd better take along some cash for some programs which don't included in the ticket such as the walk on the glass skywalk.
- Take an umbrella or raincoat for the weather may change in the mountain.
16. Wear Comfortable Shoes and Clothes
The tour requires a lot of walking, therefore having a pair of comfortable walking shoes is a must. After a long day of walking around the mountain, your feet will thank you!
The temperature difference between the top and the foot of the mountain is very great, so bring some warm clothes.
17. Eating in Zhangjiajie City
The local food in Zhangjiajie is very spicy. If you are interested, you can taste some local food such as Sanxiaguo
There are 2 KFC and 1 MacDonald in the center of Zhangjiajie city, it is a good choice if you do not like the local food.
There is no accommodation in Tianmen Mountain National Park, and you cannot camp in it. It is easy to find hotels in the downtown of Zhangjiajie, and many are within walking distance to the cable car station below the mountain.
Here are some hotels for reference:
- Sunshine Hotel Resort Zhangjiajie
- Best Western Grand Hotel Zhangjiajie
- Xiangxi Natural Springs Hotel
Bonus: A Marvelous Legend of the Tianmen Cave
The legend that Tianmen Cave has been slowly turning westward. The cave could be seen at some places in the past, but now need to go westward if want to see the cave. It is said that the Tianmen Cave can bring good luck to the places it faces to directly.
It turns out that the rotation of the cave is actually the result of the extrusion of two mountain peaks. This kind of extrusion blocks the Tianmen Cave, which makes people think it is turning.
The speed of geological evolution is usually extremely slow, but the evolution of the Tianmen area is very fast. People can observe changes in landforms in decades. Tianmen Mountain is indeed a geographical wonder!